With today’s variety of ways to reach out to your target audience, driving new leads is probably not the biggest issue for B2B-focused companies. A much more troubling part is to make sure that these leads are actually a good fit for your product. Here are several quick tips on what to do when the lead quality is not as high as the sales team would want it to be.
Most digital marketers are faced with the big marketing dilemma: how do you make sure that leads convert?
Generally speaking, it’s the job of sales people, not marketing, to make prospects convert. What you can do though, and what the discussion is the most likely to focus on, is to maximize the possibility that prospects handed to the sales team meet at least some of the BANT criteria. In the ideal world, your prospects should have Budget to afford the product, Authority to make the decision about the purchase, Need the product, and be in the right Time frame to make the purchase.
With marketing automation systems, there are plenty of automated ways to make this happen. Here are some ideas worth considering in your business.
1. Adjust scoring and grading threshold for handling leads to the sales team
Chances are that if your business uses a marketing automation platform, a lead scoring and grading system is already in place.
Scoring and grading schemes are a perfect way to monitor lead quality without strenuous manual verification. A feasible idea would be to set up a sales lead assignment threshold as a combination of these two factors. In other words, after reaching a certain grade and a certain score, a lead is automatically marked as an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) and then assigned to the sales team for engagement.
Your criteria for scoring and grading and the “sales engagement threshold” are in fact key aspects to make sure that only quality, well-nurtured leads enter the sales funnel. If the sales team constantly informs you that your MQLs are not really qualified, you may reconsider how this system works.
There is no good or bad way to handle scoring and grading mainly due to the fact that it is highly dependent on your particular product and buyer personas. That being said, there are at least several factors which all businesses should consider when building a scoring and grading system.
In most marketing automation systems, each prospect has a grade, for example, from A to D, which you can adjust based on any selected factors important from your business’ perspective. For grading, you may want to investigate at least prospect’s geographical area, company email, role in the company, and industry. How these factors increase a prospect’s grade can be based on previous sales, as well as the characteristics of high-quality prospects from the past which didn’t convert but at least started a promising conversation.
Scoring adjustments can be based on form fills, email clicks, file downloads, page views, and other key activities. For scoring, you may want to group prospect activities in three different categories based on how close these actions are to the buying behavior. These activities should be scored differently according to which category they belong to.
2. Build nurture campaigns based on quality content
In all businesses, it is possible to define the most likely criteria that make a lead a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), and your goal is to make sure that these criteria are met. To make this happen, you may want to consider building a system of drip programs that nurture e-mail leads in order to help them better understand the product and the issues that it solves.
For impactful nurture campaigns, you need a lot of quality content that engage leads at each stage of the buying cycle. Based on the lead source, you may come up with a unique series of e-mails tailored to particular prospects. Ideally, each of these e-mails should share some valuable nuggets of knowledge which offer a solution to the prospect’s likely issues that revolve around your industry. E-mails should include button CTAs that send prospects to valuable whitepapers, e-books, blog articles, landing pages, webinar sign-up forms, videos, infographics, or slides.
3. Tag some prospects “nurture only”
The broader the traffic sources, the more noise gets into your marketing funnel. It’s nigh impossible to filter out all noise and only leave quality prospects that meet 99% of your lead grading rules. Getting too much noise is a clear sign that you may be going too broad with your messaging which tends to be attractive to people that aren’t potential buyers.
Don’t forget that “noise” also means influential industry pundits or university professors, who certainly aren’t potential buyers but may want to share your precious content on Twitter or link to it from their future articles. For marketers, unqualified prospects are valuable as well.
That being said, you do need quality traffic that includes potential buyers. Perhaps your content is too broad doesn’t reach the right kind of people. A carefully done keyword research helps you identify which topics are the most likely to deliver quality prospects. Also, never underestimate the value of brainstorming sessions with the sales and product teams which may help you identify content that attracts the right audience.
4. Change your form fields
The criteria that assign marketing leads to the sales team can only be based on the information about the prospect that you actually have in your CRM and marketing automation systems.
Perhaps what you’re asking prospects in your lead capture forms are not the right questions. Also, maybe you’re asking them what you don’t have to ask them, wasting valuable form fields for something unimportant that can be detected. Here are some considerations to look into.
- Company revenue
In some cases, asking about the company revenue doesn’t make any sense, because the lead may simply not know it, or not want to share it.
There are plenty of third-party geolocation solutions that allow you to capture your prospect’s location automatically. Maybe it’s a good idea to drop country from your forms and save that space for something more important, such as job title or industry.
- Phone number
Today, few people like to get contacted through a phone call at a random time, and very few sales people like to make those “cold” (or, at best, lukewarm) calls. They would rather prefer to schedule a call and then spend some time discussing the product.
- Number of employees
Even if you perfectly know what size companies are the most likely buyers, it may be a misleading criterion. Relatively small companies often have large budgets at their disposal. They may also work for much larger clients willing to spend a lot on purchasing your solution.
- Consider filtering out free email accounts
If someone is reluctant to share their company e-mail, it may be a clear sign that they’re not potential buyers. There are plenty of ways to automatically filter out free e-mail providers, from Gmail, to Hotmail, to Mailinators, etc. These prospects can get tailored error messages that say e.g. “please, enter a valid company e-mail address”.
- Don’t filter out too much
Of course, filtering “wrong” answers in your form fields can be a double-edged sword. I recently came across a company that thought a two-letter last name is not valid and asked to enter a valid last name. Sorry Daniel Ek and Jack Ma, your last names are just too short for us!
5. Make sure that there is more than one follow-up e-mail
It is the most likely that the complaints about the lead quality come directly from the sales team. Given today’s chaotic online world, they may be perfectly right to grumble—it’s not an easy job to generate quality leads. But at the same time, it makes sense to verify how the sales process is actually done, especially in terms of handling inbound leads via e-mail.
Initial phone calls and e-mails should be sent in a timely manner, that is immediately. They should be written in simple and informative language, and offer immediate incentives that the prospects can get by starting a free trial, scheduling a consultation, learning more about the product, etc. Also, sending just one e-mail is certainly not enough. Prospects should be followed-up at least several times so that your company can stay top-of-mind.
It would make sense to set up automated follow-up e-mail campaigns that the sales team can put their prospects on. These e-mails should be text-only and sent from the sales person’s e-mail address so that to make them look as Gmail-like as possible. This is particularly useful when the sales team must handle a large number of leads per person, and there isn’t any business development team which can facilitate the time-consuming follow-up process.
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